Marriage Legislation

under the Code of Canon Law
of the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church

Pope Pius XIII
September 2000

Nature of Christian Marriage

1.  Marriage is a contract by which a man and a woman become irrevocably united for the procreation and (Christian) education of children. It has its origin in the Natural law. God the Father gave it in the beginning, a sacred and religious character; and God the Son, as Christ, raised it to the dignity of a Sacrament of the New Law. (See Canon 1013, Nos. 1&2.)

Hence, Canon Law 1012 No. 1, which so states: “Our Lord raised to the dignity of a Sacrament, the Marriage Contract itself between baptized persons.  No, 2. Hence, between baptized persons there can be no valid Contract of Marriage without there being a Sacrament.”

Both of the 2 founts of supernatural revelation (Apostolic Tradition and Holy Scriptures) must be employed to prove that marriage between Christians has been elevated to this dignity. The dogmatic theologians gave their talents to the argument. The Council of Trent (1545 - 1563) defined that Christian marriage is not a mere symbol of the union of Christ with the Church, His Spotless Bride, His Spouse, but that it is an efficacious Sign and truly a Sacrament, or visible channel of divine grace, producing and containing grace. (Sess. xxiv, Can. 1). That the marriage contract itself constitutes the Sacrament has not always been so clearly understood.

There was a time when many argued that it was the nuptial blessing exclusively that constituted the Sacrament — they used to say the contract was the matter and the blessing was the form. Many Trent Fathers leaned that way, believing it helped in regards impediments. But after the clear declaration of Pope Pius IX (in his Syllabus, prop. 66, 73) and of Pope Leo XIII (in his Encyc. Arcanum, Febr. 10, 1880) it was no longer tenable. For one thing, couples were not always able to receive the nuptial blessing but no one could deny the validity of their marriage contract and therefore they had received the Sacrament.

2.  Now let us say we have 2 Christians who say they want to get married but have no intention at all of receiving the Sacrament -- they want to say they are married, they want to feel married --  but they could not care less about receiving it as a Sacrament. What of them? Their contract would not be valid. It is not really necessary that they have the sacrament actually in mind; but if their predominant intentions are to exclude it, there is no contract, because for Christians the contract itself must be a Sacrament. This is a very important fact to be aware of, especially in these days when so many young people have attempted a marriage by unusual means and then left that marriage for a try at another one. Was the first one a real marriage? Is the second try? Which of them is the real marriage? Or is either one a real marriage? You will have to discover the intent of the two people.  Remember, if they are two baptized Christians who did not intend to receive the Sacrament of Marriage, then they have not and their contract is not valid.

3.  How about 2 unbaptized persons? The valid marriage of these two becomes a sacramental union by the subsequent baptism of both, and this without any renewal of consent. Their baptisms make them capable of receiving sacramental grace. (Vidal, n. 41; Cappello, n.35.)

If only one of the parties should become a Christian, the marriage does not become sacramental. Such a union could be dissolved by the Pauline Privilege, if all the conditions are verified.

But, if at the time of the marriage, one was already baptized and the other not, and a dispensation from disparity of worship granted, or a dispensation was not necessary as in the case of a baptized non-Catholic marrying a non-baptized person since May 19, 1918, is the union sacramental for the Christian party? No. It is not a Sacrament. Both must be baptized in order to be capable of receiving the Sacrament. The matrimonial contract is one and identical with the Sacrament.

If a contract is what the Holy See calls “vinculum naturale” or a mere natural contract, between one baptized and one unbaptized, then it can be dissolved by the Pope “in favor of the Faith” (Holy Office, Nov. 5, 1924; Eccl. Review, Febr. 1925, p. 188).

The Exceptions

No. 417. Is there any case in which the marriage would be valid, even in the absence of any qualified priest?

Yes. There are two such cases, provided that the contracting parties cannot, without grave danger, go to or fetch the pastor or Ordinary of the place, or some other priest delegated by either the pastor or the Ordinary (Canon 1098, No. 1).

1.   In danger of death. For instance, when two persons are living in the state of sin, and one of them falls dangerously ill; they decide to put their consciences in order; they call the priest, but he is delayed in coming; the crisis arrives, and the exchange of consent takes place before two witnesses.

2.  Even outside the danger of death, if they prudently foresee that this impossibility will continue for a month. This case occurs generally in mission countries. It might occur also during war-time in invaded districts. It occurs in our times due to the new Arians having taken over all the parishes, changing the functions of the Sacraments without seeming to have done so. The Church has already planned for any such situation.

No. 418. In such cases, what is required, as a form of celebration, in order that the marriage will be valid?

It is necessary that the promises be exchanged before at least two witnesses (Canon 1098, No. 1).

No. 419. If, in such a case a non-qualified priest were available and could assist at the marriage, should he be called?

Yes. (Canon 1098, No. 2). He should assist with the other witnesses.

No. 420.  Is the assistance of this non-qualified priest, in such a case, required under pain of nullity of the marriage?

No! Even in such circumstances, the marriage would be valid if the parties contracted before only the other witnesses (Canon 1098, No.2).

The Presence of the Witnesses:

421. How many witnesses besides the priest are required for a marriage?

1. For validity — at least two (Canon 1094).
2. For liceity — whatever is required by the diocesan regulations.

422. Who can act as witness to a marriage?

1. For validity — any person who is capable of testifying to the fact of marriage (without any exception).
2. For liceity — heterdox persons should not be permitted to act, without the permission of the Ordinary for grave reasons (S. Off., Aug. 19, 1891).
423. Are there any cases in which one can without dispensation omit the required witnesses?

No! Not even in the two cases in which it is permitted to act without the presence of the pastor (Canon 1098).


According to Canon Law 1103, “when Marriage has been contracted according to C. 1098, the Priest, if there was one present, and otherwise the witnesses, must see to it that the Marriage is entered in the two Records.”

If it is impossible to enter them in either your parish or your Chancery,  then it is the responsibility of the couple and the witnesses to keep a complete Record of the ceremony and why C. 1098 had to be called upon.

You can find this under Canon 1104, No. 3.  And even though a contract of marriage under 1098 will not be a secret, yet the same handling of Records will have to be used. In fact the couple will probably have to resort also to a civil marriage to satisfy the civil law.

No. 515. What is to be recorded in the Marriage Register?

The names of the contracting parties and of the witnesses, the place and date of the marriage, and the other things required by the Ritual and by the Ordinary (Canon 1103).

The dispensation by virtue of which the marriage could be celebrated, so that no doubt may later arise as to its concession (Cannon 1046-1047) (S. C. Prop.,Jan. 12, 1869).

Authority That Regulates Marriage

Can. 1016. The marriage of baptized persons is regulated not only by divine but also by canonical law, the civil power remaining competent in regard to the purely civil effects of marriage.

1. Marriage of Baptized Persons. It is governed by the divine law, the canonical law, and, in regard to certain effects, the civil law.

(a) The Divine Law.  All that is required by the law of nature for a contract and a marriage contract is necessary also for Christian marriage. To this must be added the prescriptions of the divine positive law, from which the Church does not and cannot dispense.

(b) The Ecclesiastical Law. The Church claims full, independent and exclusive power over the marriage of all baptized persons -- Catholics, heretics, schismatics -- because she has received from Christ supreme authority in religious matters, and marriage is a sacrament, and because by Baptism men become her subjects, whether willing or not. The power is exclusive: “To decree and ordain about the sacrament is, by the will of Christ, so much a part of the power and duty of the Church that it is plainly absurd to maintain that even the smallest particle of such power has been transferred to the civil ruler” (Leo XIII, Encyc. Arcanum). It includes the legislative, judicial, and coercive power; that is, the power of establishing impediments both diriment and impedient, of deciding all matrimonial causes, of constraining married persons to comply with obligations, etc. It has, however, to be exercised within the limits of the natural and divine positive law, does not extend to merely civil effects, and should not unnecessarily interfere with the liberty of marriage. To marry is a right which every man has received from nature. It has to be respected; still, it is not absolutely independent in its exercise — the common and private good may demand that it be restricted at times and perhaps taken away altogether in some extraordinary cases. Thus, the Church might forbid a person infected with a serious contagious disease ever to marry, even under pain of nullity. In reality, such a person has no right to marry.

(c) Civil Power. The civil power has no authority over the bond itself or what is essential to it, and can establish no real impediment, diriment or impediment, to the marriage of Christians. It has authority over the civil effects. The merely civil effects are those which concern the temporal order, and are separable from the marriage contract, as what pertains to the dowry, the right of succession, etc. (Vidal, n. 74). The State has legislative, judicial, and coercive power over these; it may require certain formalities, like registration, as a condition for granting legal value to a canonically valid marriage, and punish the omission of those requirements. But even the purely civil effects should not be withheld without legitimate cause from a valid contract. And those which, although of a civil or temporal order in themselves, are inseparable from a valid contract -- e.g., the legitimacy of children or cohabitation — should not be denied by the civil courts to marriage contracted in accordance with the laws of the Church (Cappello, n. 73; Can 1961).


Couples should be instructed on the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage, their mutual obligations, the obligations of parents towards their children; they should be in the state of grace when they make their contract, receive the sacrament.

Marriage is a Sacred Vocation

As a Catholic married man and woman, you have one of the greatest gifts -- and one of the greatest opportunities to do good -- that it is possible for human beings to possess on earth. In your Sacrament you have a vocation from God, to serve Him together until death. God will give you every help you need to fulfill your role. Begin your life together by praying together. The father should lead the prayers. Marriage is a sacred framework.

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